Tag Archives: WiFi

Report: 40.9 billion wireless connected devices expected by 2020

According to an updated market forecast from ABI Research, the installed base of active wireless connected devices will exceed 16 billion in 2014, an increase of nearly 20% from 2013. The number of devices will more than double from the current level, with 40.9 billion projected for 2020.

“The driving force behind the surge in connections is that usual buzzword suspect, the Internet of Things (IoT). If we look at this year’s installed base, smartphones, PCs and other ‘hub’ devices represent still 44% of the active total, but by end-2020 their share is set to drop to 32%. In other words, 75% of the growth between today and the end of the decade will come from non-hub devices: sensor nodes and accessories,” revealed Aapo Markkanen, Principal Analyst.


From a tech supplier’s strategic point of view, the critical question that lies ahead is how the plethora IoT devices will ultimately be connected. Until recently, the choices that product OEMs have faced have been fairly straightforward — with cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others all generally addressing their relative comfort zones. Going forward, they will be in an increasing competition with each other, so for the suppliers the strategic stakes are getting much higher.

“The recently introduced Thread protocol, spearheaded by Nest Labs, is not only setting the bar higher for ZigBee in the 802.15.4 space, but also piling up pressure on Bluetooth suppliers to enable mesh networking. In the meantime, the LTE-MTC and LTE-M initiatives may well expand the market for cellular M2M, while startups like Electric Imp and Spark could do the same for Wi-Fi. And finally, we also shouldn’t ignore what’s going on with passive, proximity-based connectivity offered by RFID and NFC,” added ABI Research Practice Director Dan Shey.

Another prime example of this convergence is the newly-unveiled Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), formed by tech leaders AtmelBroadcomDellIntelSamsung and Wind River. The aim of this new project is to establish a common communication framework based on industry standard technologies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider. The OIC also intends to deliver open source implementations for a variety of IoT market opportunities and vertical segments from smart home solutions to automotive and more, utilizing both existing and emerging standards like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, Zigbee, Zwave and Ant+.


The new Atmel | SMART product line includes the SmartConnect wireless IC family, which combines ultra-low power Atmel MCUs with wireless solutions and complementary software. The SmartConnect wireless portfolio is a family of self-contained, low-power, and certified modules bringing wireless Internet connectivity to any embedded design, without compromising on cost and power consumption. Adding to the already broad family are recently-acquired NMI’s 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth certified products. These innovative, highly-integrated solutions will accelerate seamless communication and connectivity for the IoT.

“Combined with our existing Wi-Fi and Zigbee solutions and industry leading microcontroller portfolio, Atmel is positioned for substantial growth in the Internet of Things marketplace,” explained Atmel CEO Steve Laub.


Ninja Sphere is the brain to your new smart home

Back in January, the Ninja Blocks team launched a Kickstarter campaign for their highly-anticipated Ninja Sphere device, successfully garnering nearly $600,000 above their crowdfunding goal. What makes this platform so desirable? Not only does Ninja support a huge assortment of devices, but because of its its open source approach, nearly anyone can write and share a driver to connect a gadget to their sphere.


With Ninja Sphere, users have abilityUsing GPS, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth LE (Low Energy, Bluetooth 4.0), Ninja Sphere is able to locate and connect each of the smart devices throughout your home. Ninja Sphere is able to detect both GPS and Bluetooth LE signals and their range, using “trilateration” to create a map of smart devices in your home. Ninja Sphere is meant to remove the step between the smart home’s smart devices and you having an intuitive experience. Instead of requiring a new app for every new device, Ninja Sphere keeps things simple.


The Sphere has seemingly limitless possibilities to control your home. It can alert you if you walk out of the door without your keys or if you happen to leave the oven on. It can even learn your family’s patterns over time and adapt to your daily routine. The Sphere is an evolution of the earlier Ninja Blocks device, but takes that early machine’s potential to another stratosphere. Through connectivity via the Internet of Things, the Sphere unit not only has the ability to monitor your home environment, but the device itself functions as a customizable remote. With the Sphere, a user can engage touch controls and basic gesture movements to stay up to date with your surroundings. You can page through informational updates, or assign customized actions to taps, swirls, and swipes.

“Since the Sphere can connect to BLE devices, it can locate pets and items tagged with those small BLE locators like Gecko. It can even tell you if one of the things you’ve tagged has been moved and gives you the option to activate cameras in the room, if available. The device can also serve as a hub for Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, and Dropcam, among other high-tech systems for the home,” Engadget’‘s Mariella Moon writes. Based on the device’s original Kickstarter page, these are but some of the things the Sphere can do, as it comes equipped with ZigBee radio for more advanced home automation and even comes with a USB port that allows for Arduino-based projects to be linked to the system.

Among other uses, these include:

  • Be alerted if you have left home and left an appliance on, and easily turn it of, such as heaters/lamps/AV equipment
  • Check in on your dog/cat while you’re away from home
  • See who is at home/away
  • See exactly where your lost wallet/keys are located
  • Be alerted if a valuable is being moved and you’re not at home
  • Have useful information pushed into your ambient environment via the LED matrix, such as the weather or energy usage of your appliances – page through this information using hand gestures
  • Consolidated control of your lights, media, and environment devices via natural gestures on top of the spheramid
  • Consolidated control of your devices via one native application.
  • Create ‘if this then that’ style rules against presence, location, time, energy usage controlling your appliances or alerting you via your phone


The Ninja Blocks team touts the Sphere as a “brain for your home” and that may be the best way to describe the flashy white unit. Whether it is controlling the temperature of your toddler’s room, or alerting you to the whereabouts of your beloved family dog, the Sphere can be the focal point of the smart home of the future.

The Sphere is currently in a pre-order stage and this home “brain” could be yours for just $329. For more information about the IoT hub, you can click over to the Ninja Sphere site to see a full breakdown of the product.

Wearing your Wi-Fi signal

Architect Luis Hernan has created a psychedelic Kirlian Device that picks up on Wi-Fi signals and translates them into colored lights.


As Sydney Brownstone of FastCo.Exist reports, the Kirlian Device is named after Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian who developed a mystical, glowing style of photography said to capture the vivid “auras” of torn leaves and other living things. Wired has dubbed Hernan as “a modern day ghost hunter” in search of technological apparitions that surround us in everyday life.

Whereas a vast majority of us are in search of Wi-Fi signals on a regular basis, not many have been on a quest to visualize the networks that keep us connected in order to gain a better understanding of these wireless systems.

“When you actually make this information visible, you at least have the opportunity to adapt these technologies to their specific needs, Hernan told Wired.

“I’m interested in this idea that they have this secret life – they’re unstable, they’re very difficult to capture. I did that as a way to explore this hidden sense of poetry in banal technology.”

Hernan’s Kirlian Device — which picks up on observable frequencies — was originally built with an Atmel based Arduino board and LED lights. It is tasked with translating Wi-Fi networks into colors, with red indicating the strongest signal and blue, the weakest. Essentially, the modern day Kirlian Device uses the same technology as a laptop to scan for the strongest network signal.

It should be noted that Hernan has also coded a Kirlian mobile app, which is designed to reveal Wi-Fi fields by means of long exposure photography and aural atmospheres.

“There is a hidden poetry in these kinds of signals,” Hernan believes.

Intrigued? You can download the Kirlian mobile app here.

Samsung builds a Smart Bike

Designed by Italian frame-builder Giovanni Pelizzoli and student Alice Biotti, the Samsung Smart Bike is built around an aluminum frame that boasts curved tubes to soak up vibrations from riding on rough city streets.

As Gizmag’s Ben Coxworth reports, a rearview camera is located between the seat stays of the frame to stream live video feeds to a handlebar-mounted Samsung smartphone.

“There are four lasers built into the frame, that project a bike lane onto the road on either side of the bike, as it’s moving. Those lasers automatically come on as ambient light levels drop, as detected by the smartphone,” writes Coxworth.

“Additionally, an app on the phone uses GPS to make a note of routes that are often traveled by the cyclist. It then offers the option of notifying city officials of those routes, with the suggestion that they add officially-designated bicycle lanes.”

The frame is also equipped with a battery, Atmel based Arduino board, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth modules.

Interested in learning more? Ride on over to Smart Bike’s official page here.

Atmel’s SAM4L powers Intoino DIY kits

Intoino – which recently surfaced on Indiegogo – is a comprehensive lineup of kits that allows Makers to easily build a wide range of electronic devices and Internet of Thing (IoT) platforms.

“Intoino Maker Kits are for inventors, designers, students and all creative minds willing to turn their electronic product idea into reality. [The] kits are LEGO-like boxes containing an Arduino Leonardo (Atmel ATmega32u4 MCU), Tinkerkit sensors, actuators and the Intoino Bulb (the smart WiFi antenna) that connects your Arduino and its sensors to the Internet for IoT applications,” an Intoino rep explained.

“You can [link] the Bulb to the Arduino and start programming it via WiFi without physically connecting it to the PC. Once you have programmed your system, the Intoino Bulb automatically starts to act like a modem, giving your project WiFi connectivity.”

At its core, the Intoino platform (bulb) is powered by Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4L microcontroller paired with an IEEE 802.11 b/g/n wireless module that can be used for wireless programming and connecting various IoT sensors.

Additional key project features and specs include:

  • USB-OTG with intelligent host mode (independent from device power configuration)
  • Automatic recognition of Arduino boards and USB connected devices
  • Self (via power supply) or USB powered with automatic detection and control
  • SSL layer for Secure connection with Web apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Wireless programming directly from Arduino IDE
  • Memory storage capabilities (“store&program” functionality)
  • Easy integration with USB Atmel devices

It should be noted that Intoino also maintains an official app store, allowing Makers to share or sell their projects. Current use cases listed on Intoino’s website include an automatic pet feeder, tweeting plant, gas alert alarm and a sound activated lamp.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Intoino’s official Indiegogo page here.

Adafruit builds a WiFi Yún soundboard

Adafruit’s Tony DiCola has put together a detailed tutorial describing how to transform an Atmel-based Arduino Yún (ATmega32u4 MCUinto a soundboard that can be controlled from a webpage over WiFi.

Aside from the Atmel-powered Arduino Yún, key project components include a MicroSD card with 20 megs of available space and a USB audio adapter (or USB speakers).

“Before you get, started you will want to have your Yun connected to your wireless network and be familiar with connecting to the Yún over SSH,” DiCola explained.

The project’s first step? Making sure the MicroSD card is inserted into the Yun and powered on. After connecting to the Yún with SSH, Makers are instructed to install the audio and drivers.

Next up? Installing and configuring the Flask web application framework.

“Once the audio and Flask setup steps are complete, you can install the software for this project,” said DiCola. “While connected to the Yun over SSH, execute commands to download the software and unzip it on the SD card.”

As DiCola notes, Makers can add their own sounds to the soundboard by simply copying MP3 files into the YunSoundboard-master/sounds folder. For Mac or Linux, the scp tool is used to copy files from a PC to the Yun by executing in a terminal. On Windows, Makers will need to install the pscp utility, with the syntax the same as used for the Mac/Linux command, except for the ‘pscp’ command instead of scp.

“Once the sounds are copied over, reload the web page and you should see them added to the list of sounds automatically,” he noted.

According to DiCola, the above-mentioned project is a great example of how to use the Yún’s Linux processor to host a web application and play sounds. Of course, the basic project can be modded or expanded to run on other boards. Makers can also copy their music collection to the device for WiFi controlled boombox, or hook up a PIR motion sensor to the Yun and have the web page alert them if someone is near the device and ready to be pranked.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Atmel-powered Yún has been used in a wide variety of Maker projects that we’ve recently covered, including an electricity monitor, mesh extender platform, high-five cameraFoursquare soap bubble machine, a Gmail (alert) lamp, water heater regulator, smart measuring camera and a security camera.

Interested in learning more about building a WiFi Yún soundboard? You can check out Tony DiCola’s full tutorial on Adafruit here.

Video: Interactive m!Qbe redefines lighting

The Atmel-powered m!Qbe is an intuitive, interactive platform that allows users to easily control multiple lights. The system comprises a number of components, including the m!Qbe (central) module, m!base, m!charger and WiFi.

The m!Qbe is designed to be used in one room with an m!Base and should, depending on the layout, cover a circle with a diameter of 20 meters.

“Just flip it and switch to the suitable lighting situation for your current activity such as low yellowish light to relax on the couch, bright white light to read the newspaper or different colors for your birthday party,” an m!Qbe rep explained in a recent Indiegogo post.

“Use it in everyday life with many more possibilities than a traditional light switch and much faster than manual control on a mobile device.”

Indeed, the m!Qbe’s three faces, or sides, are designed to “memorize” specific settings.

“You predefine them once and recall them whenever you like,” said the rep.

“In addition, you can add a delay on every favorite. So you can go to bed or leave your home in bright light for instance. The m!Qbe [will] automatically turn off all your [lights] after a while.”

As you can see in the video above, the m!Qbe can be rotated to manually change color or brightness, while a brief touch on the icon switches from one light to another, allowing the user to easily select and adjust specific fixtures.

So, how does the platform work?

 Essentially, the m!Base component communicates with the m!Qbe and the network of lights.

“It converts the detected motion into lighting situations and provides access to the settings of the m!Qbe,” the rep continued.

“The installation of the m!Base is a plug and play solution. In its standard configuration you connect the m!Base with a cable to your network. If you want to connect it wirelessly, please order the WiFi option.”

As noted above, the m!Qbe is built around an Atmel 8-bit microcontroller (MCU), which uses data generated from a three-axis acceleration sensor and a three-axis gyro sensor to precisely calculate motion.

“Additionally on each of the two manual faces, a capacitive touch sensor is integrated and allows to detect touch actions of different lengths. In the m!Base a Linux system transfers the commands received via bluetooth from the m!Qbe to commands for every single lamp in the network,” the rep added.

“For the configuration of this transfer and to read out statistical information a web interface is implemented. If you want to extend the functions of the m!Qbe the easiest way is to modify the software of the m!Base.”

Last, but certainly not least, m!Qbe supports the Philips Hue system that includes not only the connected bulbs but also Friends of Hue such as LightStrips and LivingColors Bloom, along with dimming plugs for more traditional lamps.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the official m!Qbe page on Indiegogo here.

Digispark goes Pro (ATtiny167) on Kickstarter 

The Atmel-based Digispark dev board has gone Pro on Kickstarter. Powered by Atmel’s ATtiny167 microcontroller (MCU), the new board is even easier to use than the original Digispark.

“[The Pro is] packed full of i/o, more program space and more features,” Digispark Pro creator Erik Kettenburg explained.

“With new shields and libraries the Digispark Pro is still just as small as a Digispark and just as affordable – because electronics should be accessible to all.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATtiny167 MCU, key project specs and features include:

  • Compatible with Arduino IDE 1.5 (OSX/Win/Linux)
  • Fully signed drivers and executable for easy installation
  • USB programming, USB device emulation, USB-CDC virtual serial port emulation
16KB Flash Memory (14.5K+ after bootloader)
  • Serial over USB debugging and communication
  • 14 i/o Pins (2 shared with USB)
  • I2C, true SPI, UART, LIN and USI
  • ADC on 10 pins
  • Three PWM channels (which can be assigned to a selection of pins)
  • Power via USB, or external source – 5v or 6-16v (automatic selection)
  • On-board button that can be used as a reset, program, or user button – or disabled to use that pin as general i/o – without altering the bootloader
  • On-board 500ma 5V regulator
  • Power LED and Test/Status LED (on Pin 1)
  • User accessible solder jumpers to disable LEDs
  • Two mounting holes
  • Breadboard compatible pin out/spacing (the three side header pins are for legacy shield support)

On the software side, the Digispark Pro uses the latest Micronucleus USB bootloader for programming, which facilitates easy programming over USB direct from the Arduino IDE (or command line). 

According to Kettenburg, the open source Micronucleus is the official bootloader of the original Digispark, with the company confirming installation of the ‘loaders on over 40,000 devices.

“With the help of friend, LittleWire creator, and Digispark user Ihsan Kehribar – the Digispark Pro supports emulating a USB CDC/Serial Device – when enabled it shows up as a serial port on all major platforms (OS X/Win/Linux/Raspi/Android) – which means it will work with the Arduino Serial Monitor, other programs designed for Arduinos that appear as a serial port and be much easier to integrate into custom programs,” he explained.

“We also provide libraries for the Pro to emulate a USB keyboard, mouse, joystick, or generic HID device. This means it can appear to your computer as if it were that type of device – allowing you to easily have your device type, move the mouse, act as a joystick and more.”

As expected, the Digispark Pro is backwards compatible with all existing Digispark shields.

Nevertheless, Kettenburg is also offering a number of Pro exclusive shields for various applications, including WiFi, Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth Low Energy and a nRF24L01+ low cost mesh networking.

Last, but certainly not least, the Digispark Pro is ready to connect to just about any peripheral. Indeed, the dev board offers a stand-alone SPI, UART (with LIN capabilties) and I2C that is shared with a USI bus – which could act as a second SPI or UART for advanced users.

Interested in learning more about the Digispark Pro? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Atmel’s IoT SmartConnect is on HackADay

Atmel recently expanded its wireless product portfolio with a new family of solutions targeting the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT).

Essentially, the new SmartConnect family combines Atmel’s ultra-low power MCUs with its wireless solutions and complementary software into a single package, allowing designers to easily add wireless connectivity to any embedded system. This new lineup includes Atmel’s SmartConnect Wi-Fi modules, an integration of the company’s ultra-low power Wi-Fi System-on-Chip with a Cortex M0+ ARM-based MCU, and the SmartConnect ZigBee SAM R21, a single-chip integrating Atmel’s ultra-low power ZigBee solution with a Cortex-M0+-based MCU.

Earlier this week, HackADay’s Eric Evenchick talked with Atmel reps about the new SmartConnect family. In his subsequent coverage, EvenChick wrote:

“SmartConnect moves beyond the point-to-point nature of WiFi Direct, and enables connections to standard access points. The SmartConnect series is designed for embedding in low cost devices that need to connect to a network… The first devices in the SmartConnect line will be modules based on two chips: an Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and an Ozmo 3000 WiFi System on Chip. There’s also an on-board antenna and RF shielding can. It’s a drop in WiFi module, which is certified by the FCC. You can hook up your microcontroller to this device over SPI, and have a fully certified design that supports WiFi.”

As Evenchick notes, there are two ways to use the module.

“The first is as an add-on, which is similar to existing modules. A host microcontroller communicates with the module over SPI and utilizes its command set. The second method uses the module as a standalone device, with application code running on the internal SAMD21 microcontroller,” he explained.

“Atmel has said that the standalone option will only be available on a case to case basis, but we’re hoping this opens up to everyone. If the Arduino toolchain could target this microcontroller, it could be a great development platform for cheap WiFi devices.”

Evenchick also pointed out that there are some notable differences between Atmel’s WiFi module and other platforms on the market.

“One major feature is the built in support for TLS and HTTPS, which makes it easier to build devices with secure connections. This is critical when deploying devices that are connected over the Internet. [Plus], Atmel [announced] improvements in power management as well,” he continued.

“The module can run straight from a battery at 1.8 V to 3.3 V without external regulation, and has a deep sleep current of 5 nA. Obviously the operating power will be much higher, but this will greatly assist devices that sporadically connect to the internet. SmartConnect is targeting a launch date of June 15, so we hope to learn more this summer.”

Interested in reading more about Atmel’s SmartConnect lineup? You can check out HackADay’s full write up here and our original Bits & Pieces SmartConnect article here.